Spider - What are you afraid of?

Failure is an option . . . Fear is not.

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

By now, we’ve all been told “a million times” that things have changed, will not be going back to the way they were and that our organizations must change. I’ve noticed that many colleagues are in fact changing, trying new things, experimenting and, yes, failing. Many others are not making significant changes. They are afraid. What they are afraid of differs depending on the organization. Well, failure is an option, but fear and inaction is not an option if we are to survive and thrive.

In fact, for many of us, the right move is to fail forward faster. By that I mean we need to try new things, see what works, build on the successes and drop the things that don’t make it in the marketplace. These are not, of course, willy-nilly ideas but rather market informed products or services as well as disruptive technology innovations. Easily said, not so easily done. In order to effectively manage the change required, leaders and managers will need data, patience, insight, discipline and a culture of innovation.

Entrepreneurs have always dealt with failure. They have always had to contend with their “great idea” not being so well received in the marketplace. Somehow, many forget all they knew as their business grows and they have more to lose. Employees in larger organizations very likely never had the opportunity to experience taking risks in the marketplace unless they are part of an unusual corporate culture. We know there are exceptions to the rule that risk avoidance is directly proportional to the size and age of the organization, but they seem rare. What has surprised me a bit is how some of the smaller companies with whom I work are also “afraid to fail.”

Since we “know” that the economy is going to remain weak for some time, the businesses that will survive and thrive will be those who explore all the possibilities to serve their customers in the present economy. We can’t afford to wait it out. And we definitely cannot plan on things returning to what they were three years ago. So I see no choice but to innovate or die: try new things and fail forward faster.

So, here are the questions: What are you doing to inspire your team to take calculated risks in the marketplace? What are you doing to encourage innovation? What are you doing to find out what your customer’s customer needs? What are you doing to research and move forward disruptive technology that will put you at a competitive advantage? What are you doing to use the “new media” to reach your customers?

Remember, failure is an option, but inaction due to fear is definitely not. On the contrary, inaction due to fear will realize your worst fears.